There are a number of places in the Pacific North West that we've really wanted to visit but were outside the drive time of a reasonable weekend trip. So for Spring Break this year we strung them together in one road trip.
Our itinerary was to leave from Seattle on Friday night and head down to Portland through the weekend. Then swing over to the coast and drive down the 101 into California, followed by a trip over the Klamath Mountains to Mount Shasta. The final leg would take us from Mount Shasta to Bend, OR, then along the Columbia River to rejoin I-5 back to Seattle to arrive home almost exactly one week after we started.
Screenshot from Google Maps showing our planned route.
Day 0-2 Portland, OR
We opted to leave on a Friday evening since our experience with Vancouver showed that we get pretty tired after a few hours in the car. It was a slog to get through Olympia but we reached Portland in time to enjoy dinner and sake at Masu Sushi, which was a nice treat after a few hours of stop and go traffic.
Portland has a large market on Saturday mornings, conveniently called the Saturday Morning Market
Saturday was going to be our only good weather day in Portland so we did a little walking tour around the river front. The Saturday Morning Market looked interesting, but the crowds completely spooked Ajax so we had to hurry through. The cherry blossoms were in full swing and we took the requisite selfies that are required of the modern tourist.
The cherry blossoms along the riverfront.
We crossed the Steel Bridge over to the other side to take in the city view. Hungry and a little tired, we grabbed lunch at an Iranian restaurant in Downtown. The food was something that really impressed us in Portland. It was much better and a little cheaper than Seattle. We didn't have a bad meal and a good number of them were standouts. An afternoon in Portland is not complete without a trip to a roaster-backed coffee house.
The Steel Bridge in Portland is the only double deck bridge with independent lifts in the world.
Chatting about our day so far over a cup of coffee.
The rain that had started the previous night carried into Sunday. We still attempted to take part in Portland's occasionally parodied brunch scene. It took a few tries but we did find a place where we could get pancakes and eggs without an hour wait.
Rain means museums and we ended up visiting the World of Speed, which was hosting a Mario Andretti exhibit. Growing up, Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend was dedicated to watching Andrettis not win the Indy 500, so it was a treat to see some of the cars that he drove.
Andretti's 1994 Indy Car, which was transformed into a very fast camera mount.
Me attempting to drive a Lotus F1 car in the simulator. Only 40 seconds off the ideal lap time.
Finally no trip to Portland is complete without a visit to a brew pub and a tasting flight.
Sampling the beer and pretzels at 10 Barrel Brewing.
Day 3: Down the Oregon Coast
The third day of our trip had us driving down the 101 via Lincoln City in the worst weather of the trip. It rained nearly the entire way and when it stopped, it was foggy. A lot of streams and drainage ditches had flooded over the road. I've forded many rivers in my wagon on the Oregon Trail and now I was doing it in real life, in my Volkswagen, in Oregon.
The Oregon coast was looking foreboding in the weather.
The weather continued as we crossed over the California border and into the Redwood National Forest. We opted not to get out and do a hike, but continue straight through to the hotel in Eureka.
The Redwood National Forest and an example of my view for most of the day.
Day 4: Across the Klamath and Trinity Mountains
According to Google, we had two options for routes on this day. The first was a straight forward drive to the countryside with a significant portion occurring on I-5. The other was through the Trinity Alps that would take us near hiking opportunities and a projected extra 30 minutes of drive time. The weather had finally cleared so spending some time outside of the car seemed ideal.
The break in the weather allowed my co-driver to take a turn.
The first half of the ride into our lunch stop of Weaversville was alongside the Trinity river on highway 299. It was everything you could ask for in a mountain drive with plenty of twisty turns and glimpses of snow-capped peaks. After crossing Trinity Lake, the ride became more adventurous.
The route that Google selected for us was impassible due to snow. The GTI had fared fine thus far with the weather and we had emergency supplies, but clearly, finding a clean road was a much better option.
The road we were supposed to take was covered in a blanket of snow.
Which left us with two options, circle back to the route that looked boring or continue further into the countryside to find a road that was fully open. There was no cell signal, which meant reverting to the old fashioned methods of using a map and road signs. One ghost town (Callahan, CA), multiple cattle ranches, and a snowstorm later, we were across the mountain range and had Mt. Shasta in view.
The final mountain pass ended up being a snowy one. The all-season Michelins were solid throughout.
The extended drive was worth it for the bunk bed.
Day 5: Mt. Shasta and the Lava Beds National Monument
Given the amount of snow we saw the day before, we hadn't planned on going up Mt. Shasta. However, the hotel owner urged us to drive to the Bunny Flat trailhead at 6,950ft. We knew we were there when the road ended in a multi-story wall of snow.
Mount Shasta from the Bunny Flat trailhead.
The area attraction I was really excited about was on the other side of the mountain, so after coming back down, we drove around the north end to Lava Bends National Monument. This park has multiple lava features that were formed from the eruptions of the Medicine Volcano and is primarily famous for its lava tube caves. Spelunking is not high on our list of favorite activities, but we had to visit at least one.
In a lava tube cave. This one was made very accessible by the park service, complete with lighting and a walkway.
There was more to explore in the comfort of daylight. Still somewhat cave-like, the Native Americans used the walls of the Symbol Bridge as a canvas.
Native American Rock Art at Symbol Bridge
The final hike took us to the windy summit of Schonchin Butte and its panoramic views of the entire National Monument.
Walking along the caldera of a cinder cone to the firestation.
The Lava Bends National Monument as seen from the fire station.
Day 6: Bend, Oregon
We were northward bound again to Bend. US-97 turned out to be a generally dull road similar to cruising on an interstate. Some of the most notable features were the Trump compounds of eastern Oregon. The east and west sides of the Cascades are very different places.
Crater Lake was a small detour, but the snow blocked the view.
So it was onward to Bend. A trend we noticed on this trip was the standard motel having been refurbished into something else. Our Bend hotel had the footprint of a traditional motor inn, but was converted into trendy suites by combining two rooms into one. Same with Mt. Shasta where the traditional footprint had been upgraded with modern fittings.
Downtown Bend was similarly trendy and filled with breweries. We enjoyed a few beer flights from both the Bend and Deschutes brewing companies. Their food was pretty good, too.
Pinky's up with the fancy beer flights.
While we were not really able to visit Crater Lake we were able to visit the tasting room for the Crater Lake Distillery, where we picked up a few souvenirs.
Day 7: Home via the Columbia River Gorge
Breakfast of honey lattes and croissants was had along the river at the Looney Bean of Bend.
Post coffee we started our return to Seattle. The first leg took us from the 3500ft of Bend to the 325ft of The Dalles along the Columbia river. We then followed it through the Gorge in a combination of I-84 and WA-14, crossing it at both the infamous Hood River Bridge and the Bridge of the Gods.
The Columbia River.
Finally it was back on I-5 into Seattle. Seven days, 1,400 miles, 4 cities, 4 streams forded, 3 breweries, and 2 snow covered mountains. It was our first family road trip and it worked out well.
A couple of exhausted children.